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MAKEUP__use this teen

 Jessi Prois/Medill

Columbia College student Leila Ryndak, 19, believes teens need more information on potentially harmful chemicals in makeup.

Cosmetics' effects may be more than skin deep, study warns

by Jessi Prois
Oct 02, 2008

Potentially harmful cosmetic-related chemicals were found in a sampling of 20 teens, according to a study  by a Washington, D.C.-based environmental group.

Rebecca Sutton,  lead scientist on the study by the Environmental Working Group, said four types of chemicals from cosmetics were found in blood and urine samples taken from teens.

One chemical, triclosan, affects the thyroid gland. And three others - parabens, musks and phthalates - act like hormones, Sutton said. She said phthalates and triclosan were particularly worrisome.

“Triclosan is actually usually used as a germ killer,” said Peter Kopp, associate professor in Northwestern’s division of endocrinology. “I’m not sure why it would be found in cosmetics.”

Kopp did not find the study alarming overall and said it should simply be a concern for all age groups.

“We have many of these compounds in us…(they come) in even through nutrition, pollutants found in drinking water or if you go and swim in Lake Michigan,” Kopp explained.

However, he said certain ages are more vulnerable.

“Teens are at a crucial transition during puberty,” Kopp said. “If there are a lot of hormonal disrupters, it could potentially have some impact.”

Most teens think they are invincible and typically don’t heed these warnings, said Leila Ryndak, a 19-year-old graphic design major at Columbia College in Chicago.

“For example, they caution you about tanning, but young people still do it,” she said.

However, in the case of cosmetic chemicals, Ryndak thinks teens would act differently if they were more informed.

That's what concerns Sutton about cosmetic companies.

“A company can say we test, but they could just be testing for allergies, certainly not cancer,” Sutton explained. “There is no legal recourse for consumers to hold companies to standard.”

She said she wants the FDA to establish safety testing standards so the Environmental Working Group can determine what is safe for personal care products.

However, Kathleen Dezio, spokeswoman for the Personal Care Products Council, said the cosmetic companies pass requirements that guarantee their products’ safety for a lifetime worth of use.

“Our companies take their safety responsibility very seriously and often surpass the requirements of the law with additional consumer safety measures,” Dezio said in a statement.

Meanwhile, there is a company doing something about it.

California-based Teens for Safe Cosmetics launched a collection last month called Teens Turning Green, which is free of these chemicals. The cosmetic company partners with Environmental Working Group.

“We’re the activists and they’re the scientists,” said Judi Schils. “But, our cosmetic line isn’t a result of their study--they just happened to run parallel. The kids on the campaign just wanted a collection of products…made without chemicals”

Schils said the Teens Turning Green line is not just about health and beauty, but also about building empowerment in teens all over the country.

She said Teens for Safe Cosmetics has chapters in all regions of the U.S. except for Southern California, and she hopes to build a chapter in Chicago this winter.